Friday, March 24, 2023

Serpent Isle: Mountain King

What was the first time?!
The Avatar has been convicted of consorting with the MageLord's mistress. He is exiled to the Mountains of Freedom on the promise that if he finds his way out, he will be exonerated. An automaton greeted me when I arrived.
The entry chamber is in a brick building inside a cave running north and south. A sign next to the teleporter says "INMATES MUST WORK," something the automaton said nothing about. He locks himself in a storeroom to the south. The room is full of potions and other items. A door to the east is locked. There's a chamber to the north with three crude beds and some boxes, but its door (leading north) is also locked. Right away, I seem to be trapped.

There are some stacked crates that I start rifling. One of them has an amusing book called Lord British's Tyrannical Adventure, which has the king leering at a wench from the castle ramparts, leaning over, and accidentally dropping his crown in the moat, which apparently doubles as a latrine. For some reason, he decides to jump in after it. The townsfolk hope he'll drown, but he ultimately emerges, reeking of waste. A young boy laughs at him and British takes a swing at the kid, missing and falling to the ground. Now the whole town is laughing. British calls his guards to arrest them all, promising they'll be tortured until they wished they were dead. The end. The Avatar naturally bristles at the inaccuracies. That sounds too competent to be Lord British.
At least we know how "Dupre" is pronounced now.
I keep searching. I find a watch, fur boots, leather pants, food, and lockpicks. My initial elation at the lockpicks turns to despair when they don't work on any of the doors. Honestly, why is there an "Unlock Magic" spell but no "Unlock" spell? The only thing I can think to do is to wait for the automaton to leave his room and try to slip past him, or attack him hoping to kill him and get his key. But he never leaves his room. I wait and wait. Finally, I reload from before the trial, and go through it again, as I know the automaton leaves his chamber briefly right after I arrive.
He closes the doors too fast for me to get past him, so I attack instead. I manage to kill him with my staff. From his body, I loot a Sword of Defense, Dust of Invisibility, and a key, which opens all the nearby doors. Is this really the only way to do this, or did I miss something?
I apparently took no screen shots during this entire section except this one where I'm curing myself of poison.
I loot the automaton's chamber of potions, food, and money. The north door leads to a room with a "trapper" who immediately attacks. I'm forced to kill him. It's a dead end. A sign on the north wall reads: "ESCAPE IS IMPOSSIBLE." I start hunting for secret doors, and I find one right next to the sign.
The entry area turns out to be in the middle of a maze of corridors swarming with giant spiders, skeletons, slimes, scorpions, and hostile humans. Signs on the walls say, "PRESENT GOLD FOR FOOD" and "TRADE GOLD FOR NECESSITIES," but I never find any place to do that. Some corridors teleport back on themselves, leaving you in a never-ending loop in which enemies respawn. The key seems to be to avoid crossing wooden thresholds on the floor. I waste a bunch of reagents on "Cure" and "Heal."
Eventually, I've mapped the whole thing and found no way out, so I start searching for hidden doors again and find another one at the south end of the maze. I pick my way into a room where a couple of stone harpies come to life, attack, and kill me in one blow. The monks resurrect me in the same room, and I carefully back out the door. I make my way to another section with non-hostile gargoyles and monks apparently building something (there are piles of lumber). Another locked door yields barrels full of reagents. At last, I reach a chamber with a teleporter, pick the lock, and warp out of here.
I want to know how piles of lumber even get delivered here.
It takes me to a torturer chamber where a mage is working on a woman's corpse on a table. He shouts, "Thou shalt not have my reagents!" and turns into a bear. After a few blows of my sword, he escapes through another teleporter. I loot his reagents. I'm going to leave here with more than I entered with.
On the other side of the teleporter, I see a mage and prepare to attack, but it's not the one I chased in here. It's Stefano, the mage who steals from other mages. I visited his house in Moonshade but didn't find him. He claims unjust imprisonment and offers to join me. He claims to not be a mage, which I believe is a lie, or else I misunderstood something in the last session. He does let on that the woman I met as Selina was in fact a mage named Celennia, expelled from Moonshade after fighting with Frigidazzi.
Not really "selling" yourself, Stefano.
I accept him into my party, and we move on. We're soon attacked by a lone fighter. When he dies, his sword starts speaking to me! "At last thou has found, me, Avatar." It's the Black Sword! I thought I might find it in this dungeon, since this is where Stoneheart comes from, but I didn't think it would be quite this way. The sword immediately starts complaining: "Thou didst not bind me for service in another land. Thou shouldst release me from my prison to be free again. Wilt thou?" 
This is a weak argument, sword.
I think about it. Honestly, if he'd promise to confine his destruction to Moonshade, I'd say yes immediately. I ultimately say no, but as we'll see, I wonder what happens if you say yes. The demon warns me that the journey to Serpent Isle has "weakened my hold" on him.
On the way to another teleporter, we kill a female fighter who mysteriously has a dead baby on her corpse. She doesn't have a backpack or anything, so either she was carrying it when she attacked, or the game is trying to tell us that she was pregnant. (If you double-click on it, Stefano says, "'Tis tragic that one so young should perish in the dawn of life." I'm not sure that clears things up.
You need help, Origin.
The teleporter takes us to a large, open room with a throne and carpet. A mage is sitting on the throne, admonishing a minion: "Thou hast failed me for the last time." The minion begs for forgiveness, calling the mage "Lorthondo." Lorthondo kills the cowering man with a ring of . . . fire? Poison? I don't know. The minion either turns into a skeletal dragon or the mage separately summons a skeletal dragon, but either way, we're left to fight a skeletal dragon while the mage warps himself out. He's not too hard. There are piles and piles of skeletons behind the throne. This is a strange place.
Skeletal dragons and nightmares. It's like the developers said, "#@$% it; let's just go full D&D."
East of the "throne room," we find a room with a bunch of chests, most of them trapped. After taking damage from a couple of them, I experiment with both "Detect Trap" and "Destroy Trap" from the spellbook. They work well, but I hate to waste the reagents. In this game, some trapped chests only affect their immediate area, which means you can safely open them from across the room. Others cause the explosion, poison, or whatever to hit the Avatar no matter how far away he's standing. I'm not sure how you can tell which is which or why there's a difference in the first place. Anyway, the chests provide numerous pieces of magic armor and some scrolls. There's another Firedoom Staff, too, but I don't take it.
The chamber has two levers. A nearby sign helpfully hints: "TEAMWORK ENSURES LIBERTY." I go to pull one while Stefano pulls the other--I guess if you don't take him as a companion, or he dies, you're stuck--and together they activate a teleporter. A couple of skeletons appear but die in just a couple of swings.
This is a little dramatic for pulling a couple of levers.
In the destination hallway, we find a horrific sight: a dozen or so bodies surrounding a teleporter pad. Heads and limbs are scattered throughout the room and hallway. I figure the pad is dangerous, but it only takes us back to the throne room, so I don't know what all the bodies are about. Maybe it didn't go anywhere until we activated the other one.
Between the sex, gore, and dead babies, this game would have an "MA" rating today.
In any event, there's an alternate path by casting "Telekinesis" on a winch that lowers a bridge. The game had us find three "Telekinesis" scrolls before this point, so it would be hard to screw it up, but I suppose not impossible.
The toughest puzzle in the dungeon.
We come to a room with 12 levers, each of which (or most of which) open one of the metal doors leading to a bunch of small cells. There are plaques all over the walls. I realize at some point that casting "Translate" will allow me to read them in plain English instead of puzzling out the Britannian script, although after almost a dozen Ultima games, that doesn't really save me a lot of time. 
This area doesn't make a lot of sense.
My notes are a bit sketchy here, and I reload several times in this area while trying to figure things out and find the optimal order. The ultimate goal is to open a pair of double doors to the south. I think the optimal sequence goes like this:
  • We open a room containing a woman sleeping on a slab. "Please help me," she says. "Lead me to my nightmare." (All 'dialogue' in this area is on the main screen, floating above the NPCs' heads. Double-clicking on them to talk does nothing. Usually, the game does this only for incidental, unimportant utterances from NPCs.)
  • The woman's request makes more sense when we realize that the black horse sleeping in the southeast cell, surrounded by flames, is a D&D-style nightmare (a demonic horse) making its appearance in Ultima for I think the first time. We lead her to the cell and open the door. She beseeches it to wake up and offers it a carrot. It rears up, lightning strikes, and the nightmare disappears while the woman falls down dead.
Did the lightning kill the woman or did the nightmare? Did the lightning teleport the nightmare?
  • The woman's body has a key and a carrot. The key opens a chest in a nearby room full of crates. The chest contains even more carrots and a note. The note explains a little more. It's written to an "old man" by the owner of the nightmare. The note promises to free the old man from the dungeon if he'll care for the nightmare and keep Sabina away from it. "I fear that she doth frighten him." It also warns him to take care "for one strike of [the nightmare's] hoof could kill an old fool such as thou." Finally, the note asks the old man to take care of "my small furry prize" by placing a carrot on its golden plate once per day.
  • The plate in question is in a western room where a rabbit hops around, though the note warns that it's more than a rabbit. The plaque outside reads: "ENTER AT THINE OWN RISK." Placing a carrot on the plate somehow causes a woman (labeled "wench" by the game) to appear. She thanks us and leaves us a "reward": a bouquet of flowers. At first, I thought the rabbit turned into the woman, but the rabbit is still in the cell after she leaves, so I don't know what happened.
I'm not sure I deserve a reward for putting a carrot on a plate, but I won't complain.
  • In the cell south of the rabbit is a ranger crying over the body of his dead wife or lover. "I'll never forget thee," he says repeatedly. "Thy life was my life. What have they done? They shall pay!" He doesn't acknowledge my presence until I put the bouquet of flowers next to the woman's body. "I shall repay thy kindness," he says, before walking to the levers and fixing one that was jammed. He then says, "Now I can rest," turns into a skeleton, collapses, and disappears. I'm not sure how anybody "paid."
  • Side note: a barrel in the ranger/woman's room contains a dead child. The body has a gavel, a whistle, a magic orb, a Ring of Regeneration, and 3 guilders on him. Using the orb shows it to be a Magic 8 Ball. 
Maybe we won't tell the ranger about this. He seems to have enough to deal with.
  • The unjammed lever opens a cell with a tree and a teleporter pad. Walking into the cell takes us to an outdoor area. Walking too far in this area just returns us to the cell. There's a blue lever in this area. Pulling it and one of the other levers opens the double-iron doors that lead to the exit.
  • There's a final lever that produces the message "that did something" when you pull it, but I have no idea what it did.
There are other rooms containing trolls, skeletons that turn to pikemen, and animal bones and rats, but nothing important.
South of the chamber, we find a locked door that opens with what I think is the first key I got when entering the dungeon. You definitely don't want to drop keys as you use them in the Mountains of Freedom. I think half the doors open with that first key.
A firepit conceals a teleporter that takes us to another set of caves. An automaton sells food and healing. We kill him and loot his storeroom. A nearby room has a puzzle that requires us to stack crates to reach a bell, which ultimately teleports us to another area with more teleporter pads. Honestly, this whole experience is really dragging at this point. I think there's another endless corridor and secret wall in here at some point, but I lost track of the order of things.
This engine does many things well, but I'm not a fan of having to nudge my characters up stacks of crates.
There's another automaton selling potions, and he tells us that he has the key to the exit. We kill him without too much trouble. I haven't been mentioning potions, but the dungeon has been pretty generous with both potions and scrolls, and I've been using them liberally to restore health after combat. I even used "Sleep" and "Poison" potions on a nonsensical trio--goblin, monk, jester--who attacked towards the end. I probably could be making better use of the spellbook--it occurs to me late in the session that the "Create Automaton" spell would have come in handy--perhaps you don't need Stefano with you if you use it--but the combats haven't been difficult enough to require it.
The final door opens not to the last automaton's key but to the first one's. Lorthondo confronts us in the final cave and blocks the way back. As he casts spells at the two of us, the demon in the Black Sword speaks up: "Thou doest not possess the skill or power enough to overcome the madman Lorthondo thou must face . . . Free me and I shall help thee win free of this place!" 
I just love when a game gives me no choice and then calls me a "fool."
I refuse and Lorthondo kills us. I try again with the same result. Clearly, this moment is scripted to force me to do what the sword wants. I finally give in. "Free! Free! Free at last!" the demon gloats. "Thou art a fool, Avatar! Thou hast no idea what thou hast lost! I thank thee for thine ignorance." But he adheres to the agreement and blasts Lorthondo with a spell that leaves body parts smoldering around the room.
The end of Lorthondo.
(You are wondering what happens if you free the demon from the sword when he asks earlier. I replayed most of the damned dungeon to find out. He gives you the same speech when he departs, but he still shows up to kill Lorthondo when you reach the mage.)
A final teleporter brings us back to the teleport pad in Moonshade's "city hall." Stefano thanks me and departs, saying he'll be there if I need anything. Decent guy for a thief. My equipment waits in a chest next to the pad. I'm not sure why my companions just didn't take it.
This is going to take a while.
Speaking of my companions, I desperately need to sort out my inventory--the stuff I brought from the dungeon, my old stuff, and the stuff that Stefano dumped on the floor before departing. I need my companions for this, but I have no idea where they are, so I start hunting around town. I'm 100% sure I'll find Dupre in the tavern, and I do, but on the way I notice Boydon working in Ducio's shop. When he rejoins the party, the game forces him to take on the snarky dialogue that another party member is supposed to deliver.
Seeing no other party members, Boydon kindly does his own heckling.
Iolo is working with Gustacio to figure out the lightning storms. Shamino "hath gone into the woods to hunt wild game," says Dupre. I figure I'm going to have to spend hours searching for the ranger outside the city, but no, Shamino is so dumb that he thinks the copse of trees inside the city walls is "the woods."
"And if I had thought thou would not return, I'd still be waiting here at this establishment."
Shamino relates that after I was tossed into prison, Frigidazzi met with him and expressed remorse. She gave him three things to give to me: a scroll of "Chill," a serpent earring, and a note. When I receive the earring, and apparently put it in, an image of a serpent appears and says, "Welcome back." I don't know what to make of that. The note, meanwhile, is both an apology and love letter. She expresses remorse for causing the Avatar to get arrested but also says that memories of the night won't leave her. Oddly, the note mentions "earrings," plural, while I believe Shamino only gave me one. 
Thanks, I guess, spectral cobra thing.
It takes me about an hour to put my party back together and get the inventory sorted out. After that, it's time to kill Fibercio, but of course the MageLord is nowhere to be found. I have to be content with looting his chambers.
There were things to like and things to dislike about the Mountains of Freedom, and I feel they cancel each other out. I feel like the developers could have taken two approaches with the dungeon:
1. An authentic puzzle dungeon with lots of riddles, mechanical puzzles, and other attempts to bring Dungeon Master-style gameplay to Serpent Isle's interface. 
2. A strong thematic dungeon full of backstory, lore, and role-playing choices like the one in Ultima Underworld.
Instead, we got a weird hybrid of the two. If Lorthondo has any backstory, I never encountered it in Moonshade. NPCs and books have built up the executed necromancer, Vasculio. Why isn't there equal attention given to this Lorthondo? (It's possible that there was, and I missed it.) The nature of the dungeon is also left a little vague. There's a suggestion in the "old man" note that Lorthondo created it as a test, but everything that happens is a bit too bizarre to be any kind of test.
This is what the demon looks like, by the way.
If I had written this dungeon, I would have said something like: "Filbercio has exiled mages to the Mountains of Magic for years. These diverse mages have interacted with the dungeon's Stoneheart in dangerous, unpredictable ways, creating a confusing nightmare of monsters, apparitions, and living memories." I would have presented it as a kind of "wild magic" zone. That's how it feels, but not how it plays in the game's lore.

The Black Sword bit was also unsatisfying. I don't like fake roleplaying choices. If the demon had to be freed no matter what, then the developers should have scripted something more interesting. In a dungeon full of mages and dangerous rocks, there are any number of ways to explain the demon's escape.
I wanted to wrap up this entry with a quick "What's New?" tour of the city, but I ran out of time, so I'll have to tackle that next time. Something had better be new, or else I have no idea how to leave Moonshade.

Time so far: 33 hours


  1. The serpent vision is not saying "Welcome back!" I think that's Shamino. There is a voice clip that should have played here: "A new Hero has entered this world... am I dreaming, or is he real?" Exult has subtitles for these (and the Guardian in Black Gate). I forget if the original has them.

    Topo says that Stefano "can cast a spell or two, [but] he is not very good at it" and that he "shuns his magic". I believe Flindo also says Stefano "would rather be a skilled thief than a novice mage". Stefano himself mentions that he uses magic scrolls.

    I kind of assume all of the weird stuff in Freedom was set up by Filbercio. He's a real sicko. The hintbook has him lead Thoxa through it to show it off and joke about leaving her in there (after she rejected his advances).

    That bug with Boydon commenting on his own smell is funny. I've been reading the dialogue script as we go through this and I'm not surprised to see bugs like this. It takes a lot of scripting to do even the most basic "pick an available party member" logic. Speaking of which, I'm pretty sure the monks will revive Stefano, so you can't get permanently trapped. But you can absolutely leave him for dead in Freedom once you've gotten past the point you need him.

    1. As I recall, U7 displayed the Guardian's face and subtitles ONLY if there was no speech / sound enabled for the game. If speech was enabled, the Guardian's voice clip would play and there would be no face / subtitles.

      I'm less confident about this game, but I believe the way it works is that when the Guardian or Serpent speaks, the image is displayed but no subtitles are shown unless speech is disabled.

      So my guess is that Chet either has speech turned off or just had sound turned off in general when the Serpent appeared, and thus missed that opening line? Or a bug is always possible as well!

    2. I probably had sound enabled but my headphones hanging on their hook. Honestly, sound is not the strong suit of this game, and I should probably just turn it off to ensure I get subtitles in such situations.

    3. The serpent's voice is creepy. It was a spooky moment when it suddenly spoke.

    4. The serpent's voice is also VERY LOUD and it caused me to jump scare, since it starts the moment Shamino gives you the earrings (and you apparently just put them on immediately; small bug there.)

      The original game didn't do subtitles on the cutscenes unless you completely lacked a sound card, so I was also annoyed because I didn't catch half of what the serpent was saying. I don't know if you want to look up his quotes elsewhere or reload to try and catch it.

    5. I'm not sure it's a bug per se. I'm pretty sure you automatically equip any item that you're given if there's an available slot for it. But it is funny to think of Shamino running up to you, shouting "Welcome back!", and then just jamming an earring into your lobe. "Dang it, Shamino, I don't even have a piercing! That HURT!"

    6. Exactly! That's a case where an "auto feature" ended up causing a problem. Although... what if the Avatar NEVER donned the earrings, didn't realize their importance? So maybe they left it in there deliberately.

      Also Chet, I know you weren't keen on his first U7 review, but you should definitely check out Spoony's review of Serpent Isle after you've completed it. It's a different tone from the Black Gate and very funny. My one regret is he originally had "Bring It" by Cobra Starship playing over his end credits, but he had to mute them due to copyright requirements for YouTube. (You can kinda still hear it in places. He later would replace songs with 8-bit versions, which as covers are fully permitted.)


  2. In my past playthrough I always killed the automaton guard at the beginning of the dungeon, I’m not sure there is another way. He is supposed to make rounds periodically, it might have glitched in your case.

    I think the game relies way too much on unpickable locked doors as obstacles (aggravated by mandatory key management). Also, I know that hidden walls and teleports in dungeons are a genre’s staple, but somehow they don’t fit well in this engine, IMHO.

    Compared to the thought clearly put in other aspects of the game, some of the dungeons are kind of all over the place; more often than not, it feels like there’s a bunch of stuff put together at random.

    I find amusing how the font for the books is more pleasant to read the dialogue font, considering that it’s so much smaller.

    1. The secret doors are definitely crummy in the U7 engine since they don’t have a way to hide geometry but the secret levers that open walls are still fun to search for.

    2. I always have just killed the first automaton guard. I supposed with the spell book, you could cast vibrate to get the key but probably would end up in a fight with him/her.

      I am looking forward to the "Silver Seed" posts to see how he handles those quests.

  3. > dropping his crown in the moat, which apparently doubles as a latrine.

    This is exactly how it worked in reality

    1. A strong disincentive to get into the moat when invading!

    2. That wasn't a factor. A properly designed moat isn't still water, it is part of a running stream. Using it as the sewer meant that waste was carried away instead of piling up. The relative handful of castles that didn't have this were rather notorious.

      Despite common myth, it was fairly well known that failure to keep your waste taken care of caused disease (even if the exact mechanism wasn't realized). Laziness has always been a problem, and there was a real bad time in the Early Modern period where population exploded far beyond the ability of society to manage the waste, but it wasn't because the problem was unknown.

    3. Any time you hear about an outbreak of cholera, anywhere on the planet, at any time, it means people are drinking water that other people have crapped in. That is literally the only way to get cholera. The cholera bacteria is vulnerable to every form of treatment known: boiling, tablets, a few drops of bleach, reverse osmosis, UV light, etc.

      For some, the Age of Cholera seems romantic. It's not.

    4. Cholera was unknown as a disease before the Early Modern period, though it is not certain if this is merely when conditions led to it being discovered or if it was a newly evolved pathogen.

      The great cholera outbreaks have all been in times and places where population explosions have vastly overwhelmed the local capacity to deal with waste. Most were also before tainted water was proven as the cause, a discovery which also proved that water sources were much easier to taint than previously thought.

      Even in regions where cholera bacteria are known to be present, adequate separation between latrines and water sources goes a long, long way towards preventing it.

      All that said, while the medieval and earlier periods were unfamiliar with cholera specifically, it has been known at least since ancient Greece that fouling the water you intend to drink is a bad idea, and that you should try to get the waste you expel Away from you.

    5. Long ago I heard a recording of a conference presentation where the speaker described the following: village keeps getting outbreaks of waterborne digestive illness (might have been cholera). Scientist arrives, points out that they're dumping waste where it could get into their water supply. Village scoffs, won't listen. Scientist dumps massive amount of charcoal (or other water-dyeing substance?) into water supply at dump site. Dye shows up in village's now-tinted (and tainted!) drinking water. Village now listens, moves waste dump location, outbreaks end.

    6. A "scientist" is very unlikely to just waltz in and proclaim that they know the problem as in the story. At most, they'll suggest it as a possibility in need of investigation - the most effective means of such investigation being dumping a chemical tracer at the waste site.

      Just waltzing in and saying "move the waste site" doesn't guarantee that you are going to solve the problem, because it is only one possible cause - you need to evaluate it.

    7. Gnoman, I was kinda hoping that no one was going to nitpick about the details of a presentation I heard as a recording almost 25 years ago. Could we not do that?

      For what it's worth, my recollection is that this happened in Europe in the late 19th or early 20th century, but I have no way of verifying this.

    8. (Also, to be very clear: "Scientist arrives, and at some unspecified point in time after his arrival, during which he no doubt conducted era-appropriate investigations, points out that they're dumping waste where it could get into their water supply." I grant that my phrasing could lead to the impression of "waltzing in and proclaiming"; I also suggest that giving each other the benefit of the doubt is more fruitful than point-scoring.

      This anecdote came from a private recording of an academic conference that I happened to get to hear [and that stuck with me] in the course of my professional work, not from some bit of YouTube woo-woo that needs to be publicly denounced. The point was that dyeing the water supply was an effective and highly visible demonstration of the problem to people who weren't convinced that something they couldn't see would meaningfully affect them.)

    9. AlphabeticalAnonymousMarch 26, 2023 at 1:23 PM

      I wonder whether this story is a corrupted version of the 1854 London cholera outbreak, in which a contaminated water-pump was identified as the likely transmission source:

      > A "scientist" is very unlikely to just waltz in and proclaim that they know the problem
      I wish that were true -- but as a scientist myself, I know all too many people who might do exactly that!

    10. The story rings a bell for me. I think I heard something similar in a documentation that was - to my recollection - about caves and underground water systems. I'm pretty sure it was in France and the person - I think it was an amateur scientist - linked disease outbreaks in a village to a contaminated water source that was not nearby but connected via underground water streams. Of course I can't remember any details and can't find anything about it. It's driving me nuts.

    11. Buck, that sounds right. Do you remember the water being dyed with a massive infusion of charcoal, to demonstrate the point to the villagers (or mayor, or whomever it was)? That's how I remember it, via the speaker's recounting.

      The reel-to-reel tape I heard this on dated, inevitably, from somewhere between the 1950s and 1980s; if I had to guess, 1970s.

    12. Unfortunately what I wrote is all I remember.

    13. My understanding is that cholera outbreaks generally arent't from people deliberately letting the drinking water and wastewater supplies intermingle; more that something goes wrong with the separation between the two. that's why it most often happens in places with a rapidly growing population; basically ALL water systems, even modern ones, have a failure state where if you overload one part of the system, the water has to go SOMEWHERE.

    14. I'm going to inject here the side-anecdote that the Victorians used arsenic as a green dye in their wallpaper. This had the expected result of killing a lot of people. But it's not like the Victorians didn't know arsenic was poisonous; it's one of history's most famous poisons. They just reckoned, "Then don't lick your walls."
      It seems like a parallel situation with contaminated drinking water. It's not that they didn't know it was a bad idea to drink potty water. They just had a hard time understanding that "No visible feces in the cup I am actively drinking in" wasn't sufficient isolation (or more realistically, that "The latrines only overflow into the river during the rainy season" isn't good enough).

    15. The first proper published work on it was done by John Snow:

    16. I teach GIS classes now and then, and I use John Snow's map a lot. It's one of the earliest examples of someone using a map to tell a story rather than simply reflecting the physical features of the landscape.

  4. I'm sure a scroll of "Chill" comes in handy after this area and before returning to those adorable folks at Moonshade... maybe you'll need Antepenult's 'Writ of Unstone' afterwards?

    "creating a confusing nightmare" - there's probably some kind of pun to be made with the D&D horse creature of the same name which shows up in this part, but I can't think of one right now.

    1. I was so hoping for a screenshot of an NPC ranting and raving or something, so I could make a caption joke about the "Chill" spell. Alas.

  5. U7, whichever part, was half a failure, never quite made the mark

  6. The jailer-wizard's throne... is that a rabbit?

    1. I was wondering the same thing / about the meaning (if there is one).

      BTW, speaking about those: the allegedly dangerous rabbit seems to belong to one of Chet's favourite pop-culture references - to Monty Python (MPatHG, same movie that was just alluded to in 'Antepenult' as well).

    2. I believe Chet is sadly an atheist when it comes to the religious devotion many slather upon the Pythons. We continue to pray for his soul daily at Empath Abbey.

    3. Rabbit throne? I recently noticed a rabbit stone in (rot 13) va Lrj va hygvzn vk. It could be an easter egg from a programmer that worked on both titles. After a quick cross-check (using LibreOffice Calc) of the games authors on Mobygames, there are just two candidates.

      Does anyone know whether either Denis Loubet or Herman Miller have a fetish for rabbits?

      Anyway, the rabbit in Ultima 7.2 reminds me of "Donnie Darko", while the other one does not.

    4. Ha, yes, 'Donnie Darko', the throne reminded me of that, too. DD only came out in 2001, though, so no easter egg or influence there.

  7. I know it's a gameplay requirement, but I do find it strange that those monks will just send you back into prison again and again (although it's better than having your sworn enemies just happen to come across your corpse in any random dungeon and drag it back to Cove).

    And yes, I'd say that Mount Freedom is about as silly and incoherent as the final fellowship dungeon in The Black Gate.

    1. I feel like dungeons have never been Ultima's strong suit. The closest they got to really making sense was probably Ultima VI, where they were an interconnected cavern system. But they were also kind of boring in that game. Some of the dungeons in Black Gate are OK, I guess, and Serpent Isle actually has some decent ones coming up later.

      That said, I tend to feel like most games' dungeons are just filler between the parts I'm interested in. Actual good dungeons that don't overstay their welcome are incredibly rare.

    2. No kidding... the Stygian Abyss was a good dungeon crawling experience to end Ultima IV, but otherwise... often times... filler is a good way to put them. Although, you can often skip out on large portions of them. Heck, they are completely superfluous in Ultima II.

    3. I thought the dungeons of U5 had some thematic charm. And of course there's Ultima Underworld, but that wasn't Origin.

    4. I also like the U5 dungeons - not only thematically, but I think they were actually well designed. There were interesting traps and the dungeons had good 3D elements. Doom was appropriately challenging.

      Ultima 4's monsters were generally too weak for it to be very interesting and the Abyss was very linear. Ultima 6's dungeons felt pretty bad to me, mostly because of my general issues with the engine. The Serpent Isle dungeons are probably my second favorite after U5 - they are not perfect, but they had their moments. Even Ultima 9 had some decent dungeons like Destard and Covetous.

    5. Chester wrote: Honestly, this whole experience is really dragging at this point.

      I played Ultima 7.2 twice, and both times the Mountains of Freedom have been the one dungeon that had me groan and say: "Are you finished now, you dungeon? This is too long!"

    6. Dungeons in Ultima 5 are cool. And Dungeons in Ultima 5: Lazarus are phenomenal. If anyone liked the canonical Ultima games and they haven't tried Lazarus, they're missing out on some great dungeon exploration. The descent to the underworld really feels like a descent there.

  8. "Filbercio has exiled mages to the Mountains of Magic for years. These diverse mages have interacted with the dungeon's Stoneheart in dangerous, unpredictable ways, creating a confusing nightmare of monsters, apparitions, and living memories."

    I'd play this game.

    You really should use the next dungeon construction set you come across to make one. I think a lot of people would really like it. You're so damn experienced, you've seen it all. Or, make a deliberately bad dungeon full of all the mistakes and release it on April 1. It would probably end up being used in game design classes at university.

    1. Yes, that would be a nice way to have a dungeon that does not have functional (former fortress, whatever) sense.

  9. > it occurs to me late in the session that the "Create Automaton" spell would have come in handy

    I might have written this in the past in rot13, but the "Create Automaton" spell does make this dungeon a breeze

  10. I just did the prison doorman part. Did not have a problem with his rounds. He will sit for hours. But if you sleep enough times, he will be outside again occasionally.

    It's not necessary to kill him. The red key is also in the bag (also includes: invisibility ring, lockpicks and bandage) that is on the table. I went in, he yelled at me and started attacking, I grabbed the bag, picked some more items and walked out and locked him in.

    Then I changed my mind, unlocked the door, killed him and cast "create automaton" on him. Extra party member. Never thought of doing that before.

    There's some room for personal creative solutions in this game.


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